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Over thinking about the grocer.

Sunday, 24 March, 2013

I now know even less about how “the world” works.

Admittedly I was out of just about everything. I spent the last week largely not eating, and that which I ate was pretty much crap. Over the week I believe I had no fewer than four 7-Eleven Burrito Grandes. The “red hot” variety is just hot enough to matter. Get the “salsa”.

I perform my ritualistic consumption at the flagship H-E-B store at the resurrected Hancock Center along 41st Street in Austin. I could get into the history of Hancock Center if you really want to know. In short. the site of the first so-named Dillard’s department store was demolished in 1990 with the unique 1978 H-E-B Futurestore and 1966-built Sears anchors remaining. The remaining space was green field between the Summer of 1990 and Spring 1997. This flagship store opening on Friday, 2 May 1997. It is identical to the largest Monterrey H-E-B, which introduced the company to Mexico, and was built at the same time.

With around 120,000 square feet of selling space this store is larger than a typical Wal-Mart and focuses primarily on food and health-and-beauty aids with a tiny selection of other goods including small appliances. It is one of three 24-hour groceries remaining in the Austin market. During the day, it is as busy as your grocery store is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Located between the wealthiest area in the MSA, the University district, and the poorest zip code Austin will concede, it offers a fascinating array of products. It is the kind of store where you can buy Dr. Bronner’s Soaps and Economax sandwich cookies under the same roof. VW Phaetons  and Range Rovers are parked along side patched-together cars from the early 1980s in the parking lot. If you ever want to see a Volvo 240 as they become increasingly rare, you now know where to go.

I think of this place as the living, beating heart of the present city. Especially since the city has improved the Sixth Street Entertainment District to all but extinction. All of the elements come together, not at all ironically, at a shopping center. I live not quite a mile away, but almost always drive even if I am coming directly from home. One shops like a suburbanite in Austin as practical shopping is always an adventure.

Today I left the grocery $105 poorer and drained of energy. I am a bachelor who isn’t especially picky and yet managed to spend that kind of money. Although it includes a handful of items that will be used over time, the bulk of my purchases was just sustenance for the next week or so.

Or is it? I’m going over the receipt with more than a little confusion.

First, that $105 includes $30 of pocket money for next week. Yes, $30. Austin is such an endurance contest. I find the imposed and compulsive novelty not merely disinteresting but insulting. I’ve been going through only about that much because I pretty much only leave the house to go to work or this very store. What else is there to do?

Non-list items: Four slices of freshly baked “Yellow cake with pink icing”, which is actually a variety of Mexican pastry I cannot find the real name of right now, the big bag of “Hit the Trail” snack mix which is my favorite nosh of late, a 1.5 liter bottle of Lambrusco for an after-work pleasantness, and

I broke down and bought the $15 GTC six-speed blender. I’ve been thinking about it forever and my present dietary habits will be much easier with such a tool. It’s only $15, but I know someone with one and it works a treat.

I didn’t seem like much at the time but all of that comes in just under $34.

They were somehow out of both half-gallon ($2.96) and quart containers of organic, hippy-dippy soy milk. I had to either venture to another store or buy the shelfable liter containers for $2.00. That’s an extra $1.04.

It looks like I spent $65 on non-food items., not including $4.00 on washable yet ultimately disposable lunch containers as the ones I have were getting brittle.

So I spent about $36 on actual food, spice and so forth. That’s not so terrible. I guess.

It’s veggie casserole again next week, broken up with Fantastic Foods vegan chili with peppers and walnuts served over whole-wheat pasta, and another pan of mac and “cheese” which I can’t get enough of for the moment. I’ll spend an hour prepping all of this later tonight, and preparing six bowls for lunch. For now I’ll have a slice of low-sugar pastel y guinda.


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